Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with individuals and groups to achieve specific goals. When entering Forks from the North the City Park sits just off the highway at 549 Tillicum Lane, if one looks at the history of Tillicum Park, it has community engagement written all over it.
After the big Forks Fire in 1951, the town of Forks began to grow. Loggers arrived to salvage the burned areas, and with them came their families. Infrastructure was needed for families so churches and the library were built and the school was added on to. Also at this time, many community organizations were formed. One of these new organizations was the Forks Community Council, it was comprised of representatives from all the clubs and churches and acted as a resource for solving community problems.
In the spring of 1954, the need for a recreation area was brought up. Nansen Anderson was the newly elected president of the Community Council. It was determined the only way to get a park was through community effort.
The most desirable site was at the North end of town, land owned by Milwaukee Timber Company. Anderson used profits from land sold on the Hoh to Rayonier which allowed his company Anderson Logging to purchase the property; he then donated the property for the Park. Another four acres were purchased with $2,000 raised by Anderson and local donors, another acre was purchased with UGN funds. In October 1954 the deeds were given to the City for the park.
Now Community engagement really kicked in. The fairly level site had a few stumps and a gravel pit to fill in. Lions Club, American Legion, VFW, Chamber of Commerce along with loaned equipment from logging companies cleared the area. Individuals pulled scotch broom, boy scouts picked up rocks. A contest was held to pick a name for the new park. Nancy Brager Johns and the late Sandy Gossage Pedersen both submitted “Tillicum” meaning friend in Chinook Jargon.
In 1957 the playground equipment was added-slide, swings, merry-go-round and climbing bars. The Shay 10 spot locomotive was added in 1959 and Bogachiel garden Club landscaped and Rayonier donated trees.
The Forks Lions Club added restrooms in 1968 in addition to a multitude of other projects over the years the Lions Club has spent uncountable hours doing projects at the Park.
Over the years other amenities added are the tennis courts, the original nets were purchased for one dollar, and the “Ben Dome” (named after Ben Lonn) this amazing covered structure has served the community well during the Fourth of July celebration and many other events.
By the mid-1990s, the Park’s playground equipment had been well used. Over the years the old metal relicts had caused some broken bones and a few stitches. Once again community engagement was needed. Diane Gaydeski, Devennie Anderson, Lorrie Crippen, Teresa Tetreau, Brenda Carlsen, formed MORE Mothers and others for recreational equipment. Gaydeski remembers thinking they needed to raise around $20,000, and says they greatly underestimated what it would cost, but through fundraisers, corporate and private donations and perseverance they raised the money. Gaydeski went on to serve on the park board.
In 2008 a Grindline Skate park was added and new restrooms were added. Most recently the Forks Lions completed a new flagpole project.
It is poignant that Tillicum Park sits on land that was burned by the big fire that caused the town’s population to grow which caused a community to organize and get involved.